“Liv,” Ravi whined, staring at himself in the mirror.
“What now?” She came up behind him and carefully put on an earring. When she finally shifted her gaze to meet his eyes, she raised an unimpressed eyebrow.
Ravi looked stricken, as if someone had just told him zombies roamed the Earth. Oh wait. That couldn’t be it.
“Do you see this?” Ravi asked. He plucked one of his own hairs and held it in front of Liv’s face.
She wrinkled her nose and pushed his hand away. “Thanks for that,” she said dryly.
“I’m serious!” He complained. “I’m going grey and getting wrinkles, meanwhile you look exactly as you did the day I met you!”
Ravi’s eyes went wide at the realization of what he’d just said.
After a moment, understanding dawned on Liv’s features. Then, her face crumpled. “Oh,” she whispered.
It had been ten years. Ten long years since the day Liv Moore walked into his morgue, and into his life. Ten years spent working on the cure and never finding an answer.
It had been six years since Major died.
As it turned out, memory loss hadn’t been the only side effect of the second cure. Ravi hadn’t realized until far, far too late. Not until Blaine kicked the bucket, one sunny April morning. Without any warning, without any other symptoms, nearly a year after having been turned human once again, he’d suddenly gone full-on zombie mode. He’d taken twelve people out with him, before dropping dead less than twenty minutes later.
Major wasn’t willing to let himself become that. Despite the memories he no longer had, he was still the same self-sacrificing bastard who wanted nothing more than to keep other people safe. He left each and every one of them a voice message, then put a single bullet through his skull.
Liv hadn’t blamed Ravi for that, but Peyton had. After everything she’d been through, everything she’d watched her friends go through, she couldn’t take it anymore. She left. As far as Ravi knew, she and Liv still kept in touch, but he hadn’t heard from her since then. He didn’t resent her for it. No one blamed Ravi more than he blamed himself.
Liv had never taken the cure. She and Clive had been in the middle of busting up a murderous sex-trafficking ring, and she wasn’t willing to give up her visions until she got justice for all the people they’d hurt, and made sure they never did it again.
Some days, Ravi was thankful for that. Others… She wrapped herself in her loss, wore it like armor. First Lowell. Then her family (alive, but she wasn’t even sure they’d recognize her anymore). Then Drake. And after all that, Major, who became her impenetrable shield. The day they’d lost Major was the first time Ravi had ever thought Liv actually looked dead. Some days that deadened look returned to her eyes, and they’d fix in the distance, as if she was having a vision. But the only thing that particular thousand-yard stare ever revealed to her was the true depth of her grief, of her loss. On those days, Ravi almost wished that she could have taken the cure and forgotten, been given at least a short period of blissful ignorance, of peace. He could never wish her dead, though; he was far too selfish for that.
Ravi still worked on the cure, Liv knew. She also knew that he’d never give it to her. After… after everything, he’d never be convinced it was safe enough. Not for her, anyway. Part of her had already accepted that. She’d been a zombie for ten years. It wasn’t so hard to imagine the rest of her life as one, these days.
That was, before the morning’s revelation. As soon as he’d said it aloud, Liv knew it was true. She wasn’t aging.
It made sense; after all, if her tissue was dead, it wasn’t continually copying itself, it couldn’t make the small transcription errors that led to fine lines and sagging skin. And, well, her hair was already as white as it was going to get.
Zombie-ism: better than Botox, the sarcastic part of her brain supplied.
She sighed. Liv knew she could die – she’d seen enough other zombies die in front of her to be certain of that. But now she knew that her death would be violent. Either she’d deteriorate into one of those foaming-at-the-mouth nightmare creatures, or she’d be taken out with a shot to the head. Neither was an appealing option.
Liv had wanted so many things out of her life, once. Now all she wanted was to remember the taste of pomegranate seeds on her tongue and to be able to die in her sleep, one day. Fate wouldn’t be so kind.
At least she wasn’t alone. Not yet, anyway.
“Liv,” Ravi said, facing her on their shared sofa.
“I know that voice,” the aforementioned zombie replied. “I never like what you say when it’s in that voice.”
Ravi sighed and looked at his hands. “It’s important, Liv. And you’re right, you’re not going to like it.”
She looked away, as if steeling herself, a muscle in her jaw working. Ravi wondered if perhaps she already knew what he was going to ask, if she’d already decided her answer.
“You want to move out,” she said flatly.
Ravi’s eyebrows furrowed in confusion. Ever since the events of six years ago, they’d shared an apartment. They’d never really discussed it, but neither wanted to live with the shadows of their bygone pasts. They’d sort of… fallen together. It worked.
“What, no? Why would you-”
“You’re alive, Ravi. You should be settling down, having a family, not checking up on the zombie frozen in time. You’re missing out on your life, and it’s because of me.” Liv looked away, unable to meet his eyes.
“Do you want me to go?” He asked gently.
Ravi watched her resolve start to slip away. “Of course not, but-”
He cut her off with a gentle hand on her wrist. “Then I’m not going anywhere.”
Liv looked at him, and the sadness in her eyes was palpable. It wrenched at his very soul. He hadn’t been the first to make that promise. He would be the first to keep it.
“I want you to turn me,” he said.
“Absolutely, unequivocally, not,” Liv yelled at him.
“Liv,” he pleaded, moving his hand from her wrist up to her shoulder.
“I will not turn you into a zombie so you can do something stupid like test the cure on yourself!” Her voice had gone shrill, and her eyes were wide with fear.
“Liv, I won’t-”
“I won’t do to you what I did to him,” Liv whispered.
“It wasn’t your fault,” Ravi said to her, like he had nearly every day since Major died.
“Well it’s not yours!” She shot back. “So if you’re dong this out of some misguided sense of responsibility for his death then-”
“Liv!” Ravi finally shouted.
She glared at him but stopped talking.
“Liv, I don’t want this for him.” His voice had returned to it’s normal volume, but it thrummed with emotion. “I’m not doing it for him, for research, for Peyton, for anything except you.”
“I don’t want you to be alone,” Ravi said, voice barely above a whisper.
“Why?” Liv asked, and the genuine confusion in her voice was enough to break his heart.
“Because I love you,” he said. As soon as the words left his mouth, he knew they were true. She was it for him. Zombie, or human, or anything in between, Liv Moore was his everything. He wondered how it had taken him so long to realize.
“You...?” Liv trailed off.
Ravi brought a hand to her cheek and brushed his thumb against her lips. “With everything I am,” he answered.
She sat still for a moment, not even breathing, holding his gaze. Then, it was like a dam bursting. She surged forward and kissed him with everything she had, with years of pent up grief and loneliness and the sudden realization that all that she’d ever wanted was sitting right in front of her.
Ravi returned the kiss in kind, right up until he couldn’t wait another moment to breath. He leaned his forehead against Liv’s. “Now do you understand?” he asked.
“I still won’t turn you,” she replied, shaking her head softly.
“I won’t force you,” Ravi said.
“As if you could,” she joked. Her smile was tiny, almost imperceptible, but it was there.
“But I will convince you,” he continued, “because I want to spend the rest of time with you, Liv Moore, and, quite frankly, my life isn’t enough.”
“Ravi,” Liv whispered.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Ravi repeated. “Not without you, anyway.”
It was some time before Liv finally agreed, after hundreds of assurances that Ravi truly wanted it, and that he wasn’t doing it just to make her happy (his initial reply, that her happiness was what made him happy, set him back weeks). She made him promise to keep working on the cure, but to never, ever, test it on himself (I wouldn’t do that to you, he’d replied, and then he’d held her hands until they stopped trembling).
And when she did turn him? Well, it wasn’t with a scratch, and she’d woken him the next morning with scrambled eggs and brain.